How myths about prostitution affects work against sex trafficking

For centuries people have talked about prostitution being the world’s oldest profession. It is a myth that is still alive today even though we know that prostitution constitute a significant portion of modern slavery, and despite awareness of prostitution being part of the sex trade violating human rights.

Our perceptions of prostitution are often formed based on the myths that are part of the discussion about prostitution and human trafficking, which makes is more difficult to combat the issue.

In order to effectively fight human trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular, a new mindset and outlook on what prostitution entails and how it links to human trafficking is required.

I would like to give examples of myths revolving around prostitution.

• “It is a job like any other”
• “Prostitution is a choice”
• “Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession”
• “Prostitutes make a lot of money”
• “Prostitution creates economic independence for women, especially for migrant women”
• “Some women claim that it is their right to prostitute themselves”
• “Prostitution is about sexual liberation, to abolish it would be anti-sex”

These myths about purchase of sexual services have become somehow normalized in our society to the point that it is “invisible to the public.” It means that the society looks away when violations occur.

This has contributed to the slowdown of the fight against prostitution, which is no longer taken seriously as a positive phenomenon has taken over.

This attitude has infiltrated social media, which makes us believe it is acceptable to objectify. The question is: will we be able to achieve gender equality if prostitution is allowed?

As long prostitution is seen as being legal and socially acceptable, it becomes difficult to control sex trafficking. Meanwhile, as long as policies and regulations do not prohibit prostitution, legal bases where the traffickers and sex buyers can move freely will always exist.

This means that our society is not fully equal as long as an illegal activity is allowed which is “legal” on paper but goes against an individual’s human rights.

Sex trafficking goes against what human rights stand for, and by tackling the myths that represent prostitution positively we can prevent the view that “sex work” is recognized as a job. The lack of “the happy prostitute woman” demonstrates that an individual does not choose a job where physical, verbal and sexual abuse occurs.

Those who have survived the sex industry believe that the sex purchase law gives them an opportunity to escape this, and that prostitution is a violation of human rights.

We recommend you read “18 Myths on prostitution” produced by the European Women’s Lobby.